Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles, often abbreviated as RvB, is a machinima comic science fiction video series created by Rooster Teeth Productions and distributed primarily through the Internet and DVD. The series chronicles the story of two opposing teams of soldiers fighting a civil war in the middle of a desolate box canyon (Blood Gulch), in a parody of first-person shooter (FPS) games, military life, and science fiction films. Initially intended to be a short series of six to eight episodes, the project quickly and unexpectedly achieved significant popularity following its Internet premiere on April 1, 2003. Rooster Teeth therefore decided to extend the series; the fifth and final season of the original series ended with episode 100, released on June 28, 2007. Two mini-series have been spun off resulting in a new full length series.
Red vs. Blue emerged from Burnie Burns' voice-over-enhanced gameplay videos of Bungie Studios' FPS video game Halo: Combat Evolved. The series is primarily produced using the machinima technique of synchronizing video footage from a game to pre-recorded dialogue and other audio. Footage is mostly from the multiplayer modes of Halo: Combat Evolved and its sequels, Halo 2 and, on a few off-series 'community videos' and new series Reconstruction, Halo 3, on the Microsoft Xbox and Xbox 360 video game consoles.
Both within the machinima community and among film critics, Red vs. Blue has been generally well-received. Praised for its originality, the series has won four awards from the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences. It has been credited with bringing new popularity to machinima, helping it to gain more mainstream exposure, and attracting more people to the art form. Graham Leggat, former director of communications for Lincoln Center's film society, described Red vs. Blue as "truly as sophisticated as Samuel Beckett." While special videos continue to be released online, the completed series is also available on DVD, making the series one of the first commercially released and successful machinima products. Rooster Teeth has created videos, some under commission from Microsoft, for special events, and Red vs. Blue content is included with the Legendary Edition of Halo 3. Burnie Burns has recently announced a new series of Red vs. Blue at PAX '08 but instead of it being filmed as a machinima it is being made as a traditional hand-drawn cartoon.
The main Red vs. Blue storyline spans five seasons, the most recent beginning publicly on October 2, 2006. Rooster Teeth periodically releases self-referential public service announcements (PSAs) and holiday-themed videos, which are generally unrelated to the main storyline. In these videos, the members of both teams claim to be actors on the Red vs. Blue series itself, but maintain their Blood Gulch Chronicles personalities. On June 16, 2006, Burns announced a five-part mini-series, Red vs. Blue: Out of Mind, which chronicles the adventures of the mercenary (Kathleen Zuelch) after her disappearance in . The mini-series premiered exclusively on the Xbox Live Marketplace, but Rooster Teeth later made it available on their official site.
Although the background of Red vs. Blue is primarily taken from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, its creators consciously limit connections to Bungie's Halo fictional universe. A special video made for E3 2003 portrays Master Chief, the protagonist of the Halo series, as a larger-than-life member of the army, and the Red vs. Blue trailer and first episode establish that the series is set between the events of the two games. Beyond these references, however, the series follows an independent storyline, which, according to Burns, is intended to make it accessible to those unfamiliar with the games. For example, even though the season 4 and casts include characters from the alien Covenant Elite race, Rooster Teeth never portrays those characters in their original Halo context.
The indifference in Blood Gulch is disrupted by the introduction of new characters. (Dan Godwin) joins the ; on his first day, he captures the Blue flag when his new teammates, (Geoff Ramsey) and (Gustavo Sorola) send him on a fool's errand during the absence of the team leader, (Matt Hullum). Meanwhile, a rookie named (Joel Heyman) and a battle tank named (Yomary Cruz) join the and together they accidentally kill the Blue Team's self-appointed leader, (Burnie Burns). At the request of (Jason Saldaña) and Caboose, Blue Command hires a mercenary named Tex (Kathleen Zuelch) to help. Church briefly returns as, what they interpret, a ghost to warn his teammates about Tex, who soon arrives but is captured after returning the flag. Church again appears to the Blues to explain that Tex is actually his former girlfriend, whose mind is partially controlled by a psychotic artificial intelligence (AI). He organizes a rescue mission and succeeds, but decides to keep Tex stationed in Blood Gulch long enough for him to remove the AI. Church possesses the Red Team's robot, (Burnie Burns), to warn them of Tex's next attack, but is unable to stop Donut from mortally wounding her with a grenade. Church runs to her side, stealing Lopez's body in the process. Just before she dies, she informs Church that her AI is gone. Meanwhile, Caboose ominously insists that his real name is O'Malley.
Three months after Tex's death, (Matt Hullum), a medic soon nicknamed "Doc," arrives in the canyon on loan to both armies due to a lack of resources, but is soon rejected by both teams due to his annoying personality. Meanwhile, Church eventually loses control of his stolen robot body. Tex returns as a ghost and informs the Blues that her evil, megalomaniacal AI, (various), had transferred itself to Caboose just before her death. Church and Tex enter Caboose's mind and force out O'Malley, but the AI takes control of Doc. Later, the Blues capture Donut, and Sarge decides to build new robot bodies for Church and Tex in exchange for his return. Meanwhile, Sheila and Lopez form their own robot army and attend the exchange to conquer the Blues. During the ensuing standoff, Tucker discovers that both teams are apparently secretly controlled by the same Command; they have a common contact named Vic (Burnie Burns). O'Malley suddenly appears, kidnaps Lopez, and escapes with him through a teleporter. The Red and Blue Teams call a truce and team up to pursue O'Malley. However, the teleporter malfunctions, and the teams become scattered across various locations outside Blood Gulch.
Caboose tends to Sheila as Doc, Junior, and Sister go through the caves alone, and find Lopez, who had returned to the Gulch with O'Malley. The group is then confronted by O'Malley's new host, a revived Captain Flowers. Church, Tucker and Tex meanwhile attack the Red Base head on, and are ambushed by Wyoming and Gary, the latter of whom now inhabits the Blue tank. Wyoming uses his secret ability to rewind segments of time in order to defeat the Blues as efficiently as possible, but Tucker, who is somehow aware of the time anomalies because of the sword, stabs and kills him before he can rewind time again. It is revealed that Junior is the supposed ruler of the aliens from the sacred quest of season 4, and that the villains intend to exploit the Alien race through him. Tex, realizing an opportunity to win the war by enslaving the aliens, coaxes O'Malley into infecting her, and enters the ship with Wyoming's helmet and Junior. However, the Reds have placed Andy on the ship, and an explosion is seen. The survivors return to their bases and echo dialogue from the first episodes.
He later encounters the twin Freelancers South Dakota and North Dakota; the latter having been killed earlier and his AI, Theta, removed. Washington is ordered to find Theta and eliminate South to contain the situation. He spares South in order to enlist her help in defeating an unknown enemy that has been hunting the remaining freelancers.
The Delta AI then implants in South, who betrays Agent Washington, and convinces her attacker to steal his enhancements instead of following her and Delta. She is then later heard conversing with Washington's old leader, who reveals that she is actually Recovery Two; she instructs South to return to base, but she refuses, saying that she already has her AI, and flies away.
Although the released trailer gave the perception that this follow-up series will be in the form of an action-drama, unlike Blood Gulch Chronicles, in the comments on the official website, Burnie Burns hinted that it may be a comedy. This was shown to be true when the second episode was released. The series is a mix-up between comedy and action. On May 26th roosterteeth.com released the Pilot episode of RvB: Reconstruction. Though previously announced that all further videos would be released on Mondays throughout the summer, it has since changed to every Tuesday.
Set after the events of Recovery One and The Blood Gulch Chronicles, Reconstruction follows Agent Washington, who is revealed to have survived the events of Recovery One, as he investigates an attack on an outpost by a mysterious entity known only as the Meta. While pursuing a lead, he is sent to Blood Gulch to find more information about the Omega AI, believed to have been recently acquired by the Meta. Sarge informs him that Caboose may be able to help, so Washington retrieves Caboose and then Church, while the Meta sets up the Reds to attack them. The trio examine Tex's crashed ship, but eventually receive a signal that South is being attacked by the Meta. The Meta escapes during the battle, and Washington kills South. They confront the Meta at the windmill facility, but are interrupted by the return of the Reds. Before the two teams can negotiate an agreement, the Meta recharges and attacks, but is repelled by Washington, and escapes again. The teams regroup to help Caboose, who was rendered unconscious off-screen. Church enters Caboose's mind and finds a message left by Delta before his removal by the Meta. Realizing what the message means, Washington decides all six of them must go to Command. After commandeering a warthog and a tank, they arrive at command and are given permission to enter, but not before the Meta can discreetly sneak through with them. Inside, Washington and Church discover Washington's former AI partner, Epsilon. Washington reveals the true nature of Project Freelancer and the AIs to Church, and startles him by revealing that Church himself is what is left of the Alpha AI.
Leonard L. is the cynical de facto leader of the Blue Team, and is found to be whats left of the alpha AI. Often shouldering the responsibility of actually solving the various crises that the Blood Gulch teams encounter, he often ends up taking their brunt, leaving him increasingly disillusioned and antisocial. His serious, reasoned approach conflicts with the personalities of Lavernius and Michael J. . The first is snide, averse to work and battle, and obsessed with women; the second, although physically strong, exhibits ever-increasing degrees of stupidity and childishness throughout the series, to a point of a virtual divorce from reality. , 's former girlfriend, is hired by Blue Command to join the team as a mercenary in . Able to eliminate entire teams of soldiers by herself, she is described as "the most lethal soldier in Blood Gulch."
Rooster Teeth was initially unaware of the machinima movement. Co-producer Matt Hullum stated in an interview with GameSpy in 2004, "When we first started Red vs. Blue we thought we were completely original. We never imagined that there were other people out there using video games to make movies, much less that it was a new art form with a hard to pronounce name and an official organization."
The nature of Red vs. Blue was different from Burns's initial expectation. A partial character introduction released between the original trailer and the first episode featured extensive action and violence, set to Limp Bizkit's song "Break Stuff." However, as the project developed, the crew realized that it was going to focus more on situation comedy rather than on the heavy action initially implied. Indeed, although the series parodies video games, Ramsey noted, "We try not to make it too much of an inside joke. And I think we use more bureaucracy and military humor than anything else, which everybody working in an office can identify with." Rooster Teeth noted that Red vs. Blue has a wide variety of influences, including Homestar Runner, Penny Arcade, and possibly Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Rooster Teeth also initially envisioned the project to be short, but the series grew beyond their expectations. Burns and Ramsey had preconceived a list of jokes for Red vs. Blue and initially planned the series to last between six and eight episodes. By , however, they realized that the series had fleshed out more than expected; they had covered only about one third of their original joke list. Later in , Burns estimated a series of 22 episodes; however, driven by the series' popularity, he realized that there was more potential story than could be covered in that length, and was able to conceive an extension of the season 1 plot. On April 1, 2007, Burns announced that the series would end at episode 100, which was released on June 28, 2007.
Aside from a few scenes created with the Marathon Trilogy and the PC version of Halo, Red vs. Blue is mostly filmed with interconnected Xbox consoles. As the series title suggests, the videos are largely set in the Halo map Blood Gulch and its Halo 2 counterpart, Coagulation. However, some episodes have been filmed on other maps, including Sidewinder and Hang 'Em High from Halo and Zanzibar and Waterworks from Halo 2. One special video used the public Beta of Halo 3 as a special introduction video. Within a multiplayer game session of any of the games used for filming, the people controlling the avatars "puppet" their characters, moving them around, firing weapons, and performing other actions as dictated by the script, and in synchronization with the episode's dialogue, which is recorded ahead of time.
The "cameraman" is simply another player, whose first-person perspective is recorded raw to a computer. As the recording occurs within the game, a few different bugs and post-production techniques have been exploited in order to achieve desired visual effects. In particular, Adobe Premiere Pro is used to edit the audio and video together, impose letterboxing to hide the camera player's head-up display, add the titles and fade-to-black screens, and create some visual effects that cannot be accomplished in-game.
Trocadero provides the music for Red vs. Blue, which did not feature any originally. According to a journal entry on the official site, Nico Audy-Rowland, Trocadero's bandleader, was introduced to the series after its premiere and enjoyed it enough to submit a song about it. Burns liked the piece and requested more; he stated in the season 1 DVD audio commentary tracks that the music added a "whole new element to the series." To create other sound effects, Burns used Foley artistry, in some cases to replace cinematically awkward counterparts from the game engine.
Red vs. Blue was widely acclaimed within the machinima industry. The first season won awards for Best Picture, Best Independent Machinima Film, and Best Writing at the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences' 2003 Machinima Film Festival. Two years later, at the 2005 festival, the won an award for Best Independent Machinima and was nominated for five others. At the 2006 Machinima Festival, the series was nominated for awards in voice acting and writing, but won neither.
Among film critics, the response was generally positive. Darren Waters of BBC News Online called Red vs. Blue "riotously funny" and "reminiscent of the anarchic energy of South Park." Reviewing the three season DVDs for Cinema Strikes Back, Charlie Prince wrote, "Red vs. Blue is hysterical in large part because all the characters are morons, and so the seemingly intense conflict with the opposing base doesn't exactly work the way you'd think it would." Leggat described the series as "[p]art locker-room humor, part Beckett-like absurdist tragicomedy, part wicked vivisection of game culture and sci-fi action films and games." Ed Halter of The Village Voice dismissed the humor as shallow and described the first season as "Clerks-meets-Star Wars." Leggat defended the humor, arguing, "The literary analog is absurdist drama."
Another common criticism of Red vs. Blue was that its season 3 plot was too far-fetched and out-of-character. Charlie Prince wrote, "By the third season, however, the Red vs. Blue idea seems to be running out of steam.... It's not funny so much as just odd." Writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Wilma Jandoc agreed that the first part of "season 3... throws the teams into a ridiculous situation and has limited member interactions, leading to a lack of witty dialogue." In an about.com review of the season 4 DVD, writer Eric Qualls thought that season 3 was "a little too long, and too complicated, and the jokes were a bit too far apart." Nevertheless, both Prince and Jandoc were optimistic that the series would improve, and Qualls stated that the fourth season had "returned to the series' roots" as "some of the funniest stuff you’ll ever see."
Rooster Teeth Productions has created special Red vs. Blue videos for various events. For example, Microsoft has commissioned Red vs. Blue videos for Xbox demo kiosks found in game stores and for a developer conference. Barenaked Ladies has also commissioned videos for their concerts. Other videos have been specifically created for gaming magazines, including Electronic Gaming Monthly and Computer Gaming World; gaming conventions, including E3 and the Penny Arcade Expo; and the Sundance Film Festival.
Red vs. Blue has also received praise from soldiers stationed in the Middle East. An August 2005 blog entry by Kimi Matsuzaki of 1UP.com displays photographs of soldiers holding various weapons, as well as copies of the first and second season Red vs. Blue DVDs. Geoff Ramsey later stated in an interview, "We get a lot of merchandise and DVDs out to Iraq and get a lot of great e-mails back."
The notability and impact of Red vs. Blue extends to video games outside the Halo series. The developers of the Xbox 360 video game Gears of War, Epic Games, made a reference to a Red vs. Blue gag through an in-game achievement called, "Is it a spider?"; the award is earned for tagging opponents with grenades. Another reference to the series appears on Bungie's website. On a player’s profile screen the description of a kill or death with a flag is “Right next to the headlight fluid”.
In the machinima industry, the series has been mentioned as the most successful example of the trend toward serial distribution. According to Hugh Hancock, this format allows for gradual improvement as a result of viewer feedback, and gives viewers a reason to return for future videos. Hancock argues that this model was necessary for Red vs. Blues success: "Sunday night is Red vs. Blue night, just as (in the UK) Thursday used to be Buffy. Had RvB released their films as single downloads of an hour and a half, they'd have had nowhere near the success they currently enjoy."
|Out of Mind and after|
Videos are typically available in QuickTime (QT) and Windows Media Video (WMV) formats. All released episodes of the latest season are freely available from the official site. A few episodes from the previous seasons are available from a rolling archive; each week, the videos are rotated to the next set. This setup is intended to help to control bandwidth costs; as of September 2005, the official Rooster Teeth website was serving 400 terabytes of data monthly. However, nearly all freely released episodes of Red vs. Blue are also available from websites such as Machinima.com, Archive.org, FilePlanet, and Google Video. Out of Mind is available to download free from the Xbox 360 on the Marketplace.
Members of the official website can gain sponsor status for a fee of US$10 every six months. Sponsors can access videos a few days before the general public release, download higher-resolution versions of the episodes, and access special content released only to sponsors. For example, during season 5, Rooster Teeth began to release directors' commentary to sponsors for download. Additionally, while the public archive is limited to rotating sets of videos, sponsors can access content from previous seasons at any time.
Episodes are released in different resolutions; higher resolutions are reserved for sponsors. Beginning with the Red vs. Blue: Out of Mind mini-series, Rooster Teeth began to film and edit video in 720p high-definition, and to release episodes in widescreen format, instead of hiding the game HUD through the letterboxing seen in full-screen releases.
Although it is distributed serially over the Internet, Red vs. Blue is also one of the first commercially released products made using machinima, as opposed to a product merely containing machinima. DVDs of the five completed seasons are sold through Rooster Teeth's official website, as well as at most EB Games, GameStop and Hot Topic stores in the United States. On April 1st, 2008, a box set of all 5 seasons was released at Rooster Teeth's online store. This includes all bonus content from each of the previous DVDs, as well as a new bonus content disk, which has special features such as sponsor only content, and Recovery One. The full package can be either bought for $69.99, or just the bonus disk for $20.00. Each season is released on DVD within two months of that season's final episode. For the DVDs, the episodes of the main storyline are edited together to play continuously as a full-length film. Because the episodes as individually released often contain dialogue that continues into or past the fade to black at the end of the video, Rooster Teeth either removes that dialogue entirely or films extra footage to replace the original fade to black. A third version of the season is further edited for time for showing at the Lincoln Center and at other film festivals. In a 2005 interview, Burns noted that the first season, normally 75 minutes in length, was cut to 55 minutes for these venues, with an entire episode omitted. Burns also noted in a website news post that the 135-minute season 3 DVD version had to be shortened to "a watchable-in-a-theater runtime of 100 minutes."
With the public release of episode 87 on January 8, 2007, Matt Hullum announced that videos would be viewable in Macromedia Flash format. He stated that the change allowed Rooster Teeth to release public videos in a higher resolution "while keeping the file size low," and that the entire video archive would be updated. Code to embed the Flash video on other websites was also distributed. In a site journal entry, Burns clarified that downloadable versions would continue to be released, but after their Flash counterparts.